Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
My favorite meal of the week may be Sunday brunch. It lets you sleep in a little and have a big full meal, and still have the rest of the day to sleep it off.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
2 cups stout beer (such as Guinness)
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
4 cups all purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sour cream
¾ lb cream cheese (leave on the counter overnight)
½ lb unsalted butter (leave on the counter overnight)
1 tsp Bailey’s Irish Cream (or to taste)
1 lb powdered sugar, sifted
1 ¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips
¾ tbsp light corn syrup
¾ cup heavy cream
† Photographs were taken while I was making 3 cakes, hence the massive quantities.
Bring 2 cups stout and 2 cups butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. The mixture will thicken and resemble brownie mix. Cool slightly.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed.
Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined
among prepared pans. Bake cakes until a toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35-45 minutes.
Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely (2-3 hours).
Mix the cream cheese, butter and Bailey’s in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until just combined. Add the sifted sugar and mix until smooth.
Place 1 cake layer on plate, upside down. Spread icing over, with about a quarter inch bare edge. Top with second cake layer, upside down. Repeat icing technique. Top with third cake layer, right-side up. Finish frosting the cake.
For the ganache:
In a heatproof bowl, place the chocolate chips and the corn syrup. Bring the heavy cream to a full boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and whisk it until shiny and smooth then set it aside.
Pour ganache over the top of the cake and, with a cake spatula, smooth the top of the cake and allow ganache to spill over the sides. Because of how good this is, sloppy is OK. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or longer.
Serve the cake cold or allow it to come to room temperature before serving.
Monday, March 08, 2010
I enjoy cooking, but I love baking. When I feel exhausted by studies, it's baking that lifts my spirits up. My housemates don't mind it either. Although many of my recipes are adapted from such greats as Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) and Emeril Lagasse, I hope that I can offer simple tips to take the intimidation out of baking.
Today, we're working on one of my favorite recipes: Carrot Cake with pineapple and raisins*. This recipe is always moist and delicious - a definite crowd-pleaser.
For the cake:nocoupons
- 2 cups granulated sugar (organic works as well. not sure about splenda, equal, etc)
- 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
- 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature (leave on the counter the night before)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
- 1 pound carrots, freshly grated (6-8 carrots)
- 1/2 cup (4oz) diced fresh pineapple (an 8oz can of crushed pineapple is much cheaper, depending on the season, and works fine)
For the frosting:nocoupons
- 3/4 pound cream cheese, at room temperature (leave on the counter the night before)
- 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature (leave on the counter the night before)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 pound (2cups/16oz) confectioners' sugar, sifted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Using cooking spray, spray 2 (8 or 9-inch) round cake pans completely. Line with parchment paper; This will help the cake to form a perfectly flat surface and prevent sticking.
For the cake:
Beat the sugar, oil, and eggs together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light yellow. I would recommend cracking the eggs in a separate bowl. You never know if you'll get a bad egg or a piece of shell, or worse, you don't want to risk dropping the whole egg into the mixer.
Add the vanilla. In another bowl, sift together 2 1/2 cups flour, the cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Toss the raisins and walnuts with 1 tablespoon flour. Break up any raisin clumps you might have. The flour dusting helps with even distribution throughout the cake. Fold in the carrots and pineapple. If you are using canned pineapple, drain the juice out and use all 8oz of can.
Add to the batter and mix well. Make sure to scrape the sides down. Also, use a spatula to scrape the bottom. Doing both these things will ensure that all the dry ingredients are well mixed with the wet.
Divide the batter equally between the 2 pans.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set over a wire rack (12"/12"). I would recommend about 3 hours. Icing a warm cake is a messy situation.
Once the cakes are cool, take another rack and place it on top of the tin. Then flip the cake upside down. Tap on the bottom of the tin and slowly remove the tin from the cake. Peal back the parchment paper and discard. Take the other rack and place it on the cake, so that it is sandwiched by the racks. Flip the cake once more so that it is right side up. Repeat with other cake.
For the frosting:
Mix the cream cheese, butter and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until just combined - about 30 secs on medium speed. Add the sifted sugar and mix until smooth - about 1-2 minutes on med-high speed.
Take a small dab of icing and put it on the center of the cake platter. This helps to keep the cake in place. Place 1 layer, flat-side up, on the platter. Do not worry about the dome; it will flatten out with time. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Be generous. When you frost leave about a half inch frosting-free edge along the cake.
Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top (start with the center) and sides of the cake (frost from the top and work way down).
You can decorate the cake with a little sprinkling of cinnamon (freshly grated is always best), whole walnuts or pecans as a border (whichever was used), or nothing at all.
If you are going to enjoy the cake within 3-4 four hours, it need not be refrigerated. If not, place in the refrigerator and remove 1 hour before eating.
*Recipe Adapted from an Ina Garten Recipe.
Sunday, March 07, 2010
Lent is upon us. If you want to make an Orthodox Christian commit the sin of pride (and thus, in theory at least, to have to go to Confession), then mention how hard it is to remember your decision to “give up” chocolate, or to complain about having to eat fish on Fridays during Lent.
By contrast, Orthodox Christians observe four extended fasting seasons per liturgical year—Advent (or the Nativity Fast); Great Lent; the fast before the Feast of Ss Peter and Paul (usually in June); and the Dormition Fast, which commemorates the falling asleep of Mary, the Theotokos. (Orthodox tend to hedge the question of Mary’s assumption into heaven, although I know of at least one Orthodox Church of the Assumption.)
That adds up to more than a third of a year. During this time, Orthodox are asked to abstain from meat and dairy products, as well as alcohol and even olive oil, depending on what day of the week or month it is.
I especially liked the link between the fast and good physical and spiritual health:
I cannot say enough about the sheer, simple gratitude to God that I have felt on those Lenten days when I have heaped my plate with tofu and chickpeas and spinach, and felt that vitamin-laden food—exactly what no less a secular authority than Mark Bittman of The New York Times prescribes as the most healthy diet—hit my stomach after a long day. Not enough to be stuffed, but just enough to be sustained, to have the strength to do good work and love others better and to increase prayer.
Saturday, March 06, 2010
There's an ongoing discussion among some members of the Jesuit communities I've lived in over the kinds of foods we eat and how that impacts the ecology. For some, industrial livestock operations, where most of our meat comes from, are so destructive to the environment on many levels that the only responsible choice is to maintain a vegetarian diet. This choice becomes difficult in a religious community, where food supplies and meals are shared in common. The vegetarian must either abstain from part of our common meals, request that vegetarian options be made in addition to the regular meals, or maintain a separate shopping list and prepare their own meals. All of these options create dilemmas when living in religious community. Our common life and apostolic poverty don't always make independent meals a feasible option.